At Functional Education we make an effort to reflect Waldorf, Montessori and Enquiry learning principles. Last week I wrote a post on how we reflect the 8 guiding principles of Montessori into our every day learning. This week I will outline how we incorporate that with the Waldorf aspects of our curriculum.
The Waldorf curriculum is the guiding document that forms the base of our teaching. It is built on over a hundred years of proven research and implementation in over 200 schools world wide. Thousands of children world wide experience success following this method of instruction and there are countless research papers undertaken on its guiding principles. This curriculum delivers specific learning topics at certain times in a child’s life. But it is not just the topics themselves and when they are delivered that is important, there is also HOW the subjects are introduced to the children, and that is where the magic and beauty of this education lies.
You see, education is not about learning something new and then regurgitating it back in a test, NO education is about discovery, curiosity, unfolding meaning, applying relevance to real life, interacting with the subject matter and becoming entranced with wonder as the child realises the importance this part plays in being a piece of the larger puzzle of life itself.
In order for the child to explore the topics of learning the teacher delivering the lessons has to have a firm grasp of some essential fundamental principles including; the children’s temperaments, their learning styles, the rhythms and routines to the lessons, an appreciation for truth, beauty and good in the world and imagination. So how can an online course deliver some of these concepts? Let’s explore each of these below in more detail.
I can write an entire article just on this topic. It is a fascinating area of study. The temperaments of a child can be loosely categorised into four areas; choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholy. They are essentially character or personality traits and how a child approaches life and learning. Are they strong willed, full of fire and opinion, ready to lead others or are they more laid back, relaxed and willing to allow others to lead? Do they like everything to be neat and orderly with tasks completed in a particular fashion to a high standard, or are they more spontaneous with a shorter attention span and a work area that reflects the post hurricane look? You may not see it, but the topics are introduced in a way to address each of these temperaments. There are tasks that are designed to suit each of them and the space given for the child to complete tasks in a way that resonates. Stories contain characters that reflect these traits and on a subconscious level the child is relating specifically to the character they identify with. This isn’t done by accident. The planners and teachers at Functional Ed are making sure this is included.
Is your child an auditory learner, a visual learner, a kinesthetic (touch) learner or a combination of a couple of these? Children learn in a variety of ways and we have designed our lesson delivery to ensure that children receive their learning in the way they best relate to it. We use the blackboard to write and draw instructions and step by step breakdowns of the work required. The lessons are delivered by story, poem and song for those that need to hear the learning and all tasks are completed by the child using their own hands and creativity.
Rhythm and routine
They always say that rhythm and routine is the antidote to anxiety and I would agree with that. Rhythm and routine does not equate to boring. It equates to stability. If a child knows that their teacher is the same, and she follows a particular order of teaching each day then they don’t need to worry themselves about what comes next. They can be prepared and organised for the lesson. Each lesson is different and brings variety and excitement, but it is always delivered by a teacher with a smile on her face who you know you can press repeat to hear more than once if necessary.
There are a variety of rhythms going on in the program at the same time that you might not be aware of. There are breathing rhythms, daily rhythms, weekly rhythms, monthly rhythms and each of these has been carefully included with a purpose in mind.
A breathing rhythm throughout a single lesson means that an activity doesn’t go on too long without a break. If sitting for a story, it is then followed by a movement activity to change the rhythm. The day itself follows a breathing rhythm. A breathing out subject such as movement, followed by a quiet breathing in activity like a story, then out again for a hands on activity then back in again for a concentrated craft. The whole days flows like this. Over the period of a year you can also see a rhythm between monthly topics of study, alternating between a focus on literacy, then numeracy, historical or geographical topics. We carefully construct our program to flow like this for maximum engagement.
Learning through art and beauty
The world is a beautiful place full of wonder and awe. We carefully reflect this in our topics. Poems, stories and songs focus on the beauty in the world and our work is reflected on our pages to capture this beauty. If the child can see the beauty in the world they are then free to find beauty, awe and wonder in their daily lives. To focus on the best around them which then helps build an aptitude for problem solving, creativity, resilience and a sense of belonging.
Creating own textbook, workbook.
At Functional Education you won’t find children simply filling in worksheets with blank spaces. Each child creates their own record of learning in a way that reflects them. The books are filled with their own original work, not filled in blank spaces with only one desired answer. The lesson is captured with the points that the child found most relevant. A sample is given on the blackboard by the teacher for guidance and scaffolding for those who wish to copy it or use it as a basis to begin their own work, but there is no requirement to have to do it that way. It won’t be marked and judged. It is up to the child to decide how they will capture that information for themselves and it is not limited to writing and drawing. They can use computers, art, music or any other way they see fit to record their learning.
So does the Waldorf component of the curriculum mean that Functional Education is essentially just a Waldorf school online? No. We have worked hard to ensure we implement the three systems of Waldorf, Montessori and Enquiry for a comprehensive and non-restrictive program. The three systems mesh effortlessly together. Overlapping in many areas and sharing a large amount of similarities yet supporting each other in areas of strength. There are plenty of pure Waldorf only curriculums available world wide if people are wishing to follow one of those.
Some people find that they feel excluded from following just a Waldorf based curriculum based on particular content or differing beliefs. We have listened carefully to our parents who have asked us to refrain from introducing large amounts of Christen based content and who have instead requested that we touch only lightly on the inclusion of religion or spiritual beliefs in a purely historical context and from the position of many different cultures at the same time with opposing views to provide a comprehensive look at how belief systems arose. In a traditional Waldorf setting the use of Christian based festivals, opening verses, graces, biblical stories and parent education on anthroposophy are part of an everyday classroom. We have removed the majority of these from our program to meet our parents requests. Our verses have been replaced with gratitude and mindfulness studies from across all cultures, the biblical stories are restricted to strictly historical accounts in the senior history classes where the rise of religion world wide is introduced following the fall of the Roman Empire and we ensure that our crafts and hands on activities do not reflect things like Christmas or Easter, so that we are all inclusive to all of our students world wide.
By embracing the three systems of learning we are not restricted to what we teach. We have enormous freedom to introduce new topics that wouldn’t traditionally be taught. We can update our curriculum to reflect modern civilisation and embrace the use of technology. It allows us to have the best of both worlds, which we think is pretty cool.
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Enquiry learning is the third piece of the puzzle that fits seamlessly together with Waldorf and Montessori to form our comprehensive education program.The role that Enquiry learning plays is to develop the children’s learning from the ‘Teacher Led’ end of the scale, through to the ‘Child Led’ end. How a child learns is incredibly important to how they approach life and learning opportunities later on in life.
Montessori and Waldorf learning are closely aligned through the younger years. Each focuses on children learning with their heads, their hearts and their hands.
Preparing our children to attend school can be a daunting experience. It doesn’t matter if we are thinking of enrolling them in a local public school, a private school, an alternative school or considering keeping them in the home environment to school them. All learning environments come with their own challenges and successes. These days it’s more about shaping our children’s educational journey to meet our expectations rather than conforming to societies norms.
A child must be registered in a school from age six, so if a family wishes to homeschool, they need to go to the Ministry of Education website and complete the Home Education Application form before the child turns six.
Functional education can deliver a quality education anywhere you have an internet connection.
It is a privilege to be able to educate your child at home in a school without walls. You have absolute say in how you would like your child to receive their learning in an environment you love.
One of the greatest benefits of educating your children in a school without walls (at home or on the road), is the ability to spend a significant amount of time outdoors. There is no need to organise a massive field trip and fill out copious amounts of Health and Safety paperwork. Just open the door and go.
This excerpt is from the book ‘The Homeschooling Handbook’ by Lorilee Lippincott, 2014. It is an excellent reference for all things homeschooling, and contains lots of lovely case studies from families who have successfully embarked upon this journey.